תמונות בעמוד

points; paying titles of mint, anise, and cummin: and hence they werc had in honour of all the people, and generally esteemed the holiest of men.

Many of the Scribes were of the sect of the Pharisees. Thus St. Paul himseif, who was educated for a Scribe, first at the university of Tarsus, and after that in Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel, (one of the most learned Scribes or Doctors of the Lah', that were then in the nation,) declares of himself before the Council, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee;” (Acts sxii. 6;) and before King Agrippa, “ After the straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisce.” (Chap. xxvi. 5.) And the whole body of the Scribes generally esteemed and acied in concert with the Pharisecs. Hence we find our Saviour so fregently coupling them together, as coming in many respects under the sakic consideration. In this place they seem to be mentioned together, as the most eminent professors of religion; the for!er of whom were accounted the wrisest,--the latter, the holiest of men.

3. What “the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisces” really was, it is not difficult to determine. Our Lord has preserved an authentic accouui, which one of them gave of himself: and he is clear and full in describing his own rightcousness; and cannot be supposed to have omitted any part of it. He went up indeed “into the temple to pray;” but was so intent upon his own virtues, that he forgot the design upon which he came. For it is remarkable, he does not properly pray at all: lie only tells God bow wise and good he was. “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, cxtortioners, unjust, adulterers; or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all I possess.” His righteousness therefore consisted of three parts : First, saith he, “I am not as other men arc;" I am not an extortioner, not unjust, not an adulterer; not “even as this publican :” Secondly, “I fast twice in the weck :” And thirdly, “I give tithes of all that I possess.”

“I am not as other men are.” This is not a small point. It is not every man that can say this. It is as if he had said, I do not suffer myself to be carried away by that great torrent, Custom. I live not by custom, but by reason; not by the examples of men, but by the word of God. “I am not an extortioner, not unjust, not an adulterer; ” however common these sins are, cveu among those who are called the people of God; (extortion, in particular,-a kind of legal injustice, Het punishable by any human law, the making gain of another's ignorance or necessity;-having filled every corner of the land ;) “nor even as this publican ;” not guilty of any open or presumptuous sin; not an outward sinner; but a fair, honest man, of blameless life and conversation.

4. “I fast twice in the week.” There is more implied in this, than we may at first be sensible of. All the stricter Pharisees observed the weckly fasts; namely, every Monday and Thursday. On the former day, they fasted in memory of Moses receiving on that day (as their tradition taught) the two tables of stone written by the finger of God; on the latter, in memory of bis casting them out of his hand, when he saw the people dancing round the golden calf. On these days, they took no sustenance at all, till three in the afternoon; the hour at which they began to offer up the evening sacrifice in the temple. Till that hour, it was their custom to remain in the temple, in some of the corners, apartments, or courts thereof; that they might be ready to assist at all the sacrifices, and to join in all the public prayers. The time between they were accustomed to employ, partly in private addresses to God, partly in searching the Scriptures, in reading. the Law and the Prophets, and in meditating thereon. Thus much is implied in, “I fast twice in the week;” the second branch of the righteousness of a Pharisee. .

5 “I give tithes of all that I possess.” This the Pharisees did with the utmost exactness. They would not except the most inconsiderable thing ; no, not mint, anise, and cummin. They would not keep back the least part of what they believed properly to belong to God; but gave a full tenth of their whole substance yearly, and of all their increase, whatsoever it was.

Yea, the stricter Pharisees, (as has been often observed by those who are versed in the ancient Jewish writings,) not content with giving one tenth of their substance to God, in his Priests and Levites, gave another tenth to God in the poor, and that continually. They gave the same proportion of all they had in alms, as they were accustomed to give in tithes. And this likewise they adjusted with the utmost exactness; that they might not keep back any part, but might fully render unto God the things which were God's, as they accounted this to be. So that, upon the whole, they gave away, from year to year, an entire fifth of all that they possessed.

6. This was “the Righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees ;” a righteousness which, in many respects, went far beyond the conception which many bavo been accustomed iro entertain concerning it. But perhaps it will be said, “It was all false and feigned; for they were all a company of hypocrites.” Some of thein doubiless were ; men who had really no religion at all, no fear of God, or desire to please him ; who had no concern for the honour that cometh of God, but only for the praise of men. And these are they whom our Lord so severely condemns, so sharply reproves on many occatsions. But we must not suppose, because many Pharisees were hypocrites, therefore all were so. Nor indeed is hypocrisy by any means essential to the character of a Pbarisee. This is not the distinguishing mark of their scct. It is rather this, (according to our Lord's account,) “They trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." This is their genuine badge. But the Pharisee of this kind cannot be an hypocrite. He must be, in the common sense, sincerc; otherwise he could not “trust in himself that he is righteous.” The man who was hicre commending himself to God, unquestionably thought himself righteous. Consequently he was no hypocrite; he was not conscious to himself of any insincerity: He now spoke to God just what he thought, that he was abundantly better than other men.

But the example of St. Paul, were there no other, is sufficient to put this out of all question. He could not only say, when he was a Christian, “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence, toward God, and toward men ;” (Acts xxiv. 16;) but even concerning the time then he was a Pharisee, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." (Acts xxiii. 1.) He was therefore sincere when he was a Pharisee, as well as when he was a Christian. He was no more an hypocrite when he persecuted the church, than when he preached the faith which once he persecuted. Let this then be added to the rightcousness of the Scribes and Pharisees,”-a sincerc belief that they are righteous, and in all things “doiug God service.”

7. And yet, “ Except your righteousness,” saith our Lord, “ shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of hicaren." A solemn and weighty declaration, and one which it behoves all, who are called by the name of Christ, seriously and deeply to consider. But before weinquire, How our righteousness mayexceed theirs, let us examine, whether at present we come up to it?

First. A Pharisee 1135 “not as other men are.” In externals

he was singularly good. Are we so? Do we dare to be singular at all? Do we not rather swim with the stream ? Do we not many times dispensc with religion and reason together, because we would not look particular? Are we not often more afraid of being out of the fashion, than being out of the way of salvation ? Have we courage to stem the tide? To run counter to the world ? “ To obey God rather than man ?” Otherwise the Pharisee leaves us behind at the very first step. It is well if we overtake him any more.

But to come closer: Can we use his first plea with God? which is, in substance, “ I do no harm : I live in no outward sin ; I do nothing for which my own heart condemns me.” Do you not ? Are you sure of that? Do you live in no practice for which your own heart condemns you? If you are not an adulterer, if you are not unchaste, either in word or deed, are you not unjust ? The grand measure of justice, as well as of mercy, is, “Do unto others as thou wouldest they should do unto thee.' Do you walk by this rule? Do you never do unto any what you would not they should do unto you? Nay, are you not grossly unjust ? Are you not an extortioner ? Do you not make a gain of any one's ignorance, or necessity ? Neither in buying nor selling ? Suppose you were engaged in trade: do you demand, do you receive, no more than the real value of what you sell? Do you demand, do you receive, no more of the ignorant than of the knowing,--of a little child, than of an experienced trader? If you do, why does not your heart condemn you? You are a barefaced extortioner! Do you demand no more than the usual price of goods, of any who is in pressing want,—who must have, and that without delay, the things which you only can furnish him with ? If you do, this also is flat extortion. Indeed you do not come up to the righteousness of a Pharisee.

8. A Pharisee, secondly, (to express his sense in our common way,) used all the means of grace. As he fasted often and much, twice in every week, so he attended all the sacrifices. He was constant in public and private prayer, and in reading and hearing the Scriptures. Do you go as far as this? Do you fast much and often ? Twice in the week? I fear not. Once at least,~" on all Fridays in the year? ” (So our Church clearly and peremptorily enjoins all her members to do;. to observe all these, as well as the vigils and the forty days of Lent, as days of fasting or abstinence.) Do you fast twice in the year ? I am afraid some among us cannot plead even this !--Do you

Vol. I, No. 7.

neglect no opportunity of attending and partaking of the Christian Sacrifice ? How many are they who call themselves Christians, and yet are utterly regardless of it, yet do not cat of that bread, or drink of that cup, for months, perhaps years together! Do you, every day, either bear the Scriptures, or read them and meditate thercon? Do you join in prayer with the great congregation, daily, if you have opportunity; it not, whenever you can; particularly on that day which you “ remember to keep it holy?” Do you strive to make oppor. tunities? Are you glad when they say unto you, “We will go into the house of the Lord?” Are you zealous of, and diligent in, private prayer? Do you stiller no day to pass withont it? Ritbier, are not some of you so far from spending therein (with the Phuisec) sercral liours in one day, that you think one hour full enougll, if « tou minch? Do you spend an hour in a chay, or in a week, in praying to your Father which is in secret? Year, an hour in a month? Have you spent one hour togeiler in priraie prayer ever since you was born? Ab poor Christian' Shall not the Pharisee rise up in the judgmeut against three and condimta thee? llis rightcousness is its fur above thiuc, as the heaven is above the earth!

9. The Pharisee, thirdly, pridd tithes and save alms of il! that he possessed. Audin low imple a manner! So that lie was (als tre phrase i:) “il ma! that did much good." Dove come up to him here? Which of us is so abundant, as lie was, in good works? Which of us gives a fifth of all his substance to God, both of the principal, and of ile increase? Who of 115, ont of (suppose) in hundreil pounds a year, gives twenty to Ciod and the poor; ont of liity, --1011; and so in a larger or a smaller proportion e n skall our righteousness, in using all the means of grace, in attending all the ordinances of God, in avoiding evil, and coins good, equal at least the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees?

10. Although if it only caualled theirs, what would that prodil? “ for verily Lay to you, Except your righteousness shall clined the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisecs, vei shall in no case enter in the kingdom of bearen." But how can it exceed thciis? Therein does the righteousness of a Christian exceed that of a Scribe or Pharisee? Christian rightconsuess cxceeds theirs, tirst, in the Extent of it. Most of the Pharisees, though they were rigorously exact in many things. yet were emboldened, by the traditions of the Elders, to dispense with others of equal importance. Thus they were extremely

« הקודםהמשך »